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Nitpicking aside, Apple fans love iPad
YES, I will purchase a new iPad. However, I must admit to feeling a bit disappointed when I watched the webcast of the grand unveiling by Apple in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Actually, I won't be buying the new iPad because of innovation, but rather for its useful, though not revolutionary, upgrades, and of course, the Apple ecosystem.
As millions of Apple users like myself, I believe Apple Inc will maintain its dominant position in the fast-growing tablet computer market, and probably also in mobile phone and personal computer markets, in the post-Steve Jobs era.
The new iPad features a sharper high-definition screen, a faster processor and next-generation network support. It goes on sale starting on March 16, with a minimum price of US$499. The cost of the iPad version it replaces has been cut to US$399.
Here are the five reasons why I was a little disappointed by the product presentation:
1. No Siri function
Everyone expected Apple to add Siri, the voice-controlled virtual assistant feature, to the new iPad. I see no reason why they couldn't have done that, with the latest iPad release coming just months after the debut of iPhone 4S with the popular function.
2. No upgraded capacity
There is only a 64-gigabyte iPad this time but no 128-GB model, as expected. With no expansion memory slot like rival products, iPad should upgrade its memory capacity. I can hardly imagine how to store the flood of new applications, music, video and pictures on the new entry-level 16 GB iPad, especially after Apple added an iPhoto application to the iPad, which encourages people to browse and edit their photos on the devices. Don't forget the high-definition screen: Each HD movie is about 10 to 20 GB, which means even a 64 GB iPad can store only two or three movies. Come on, Apple! The cost of memory is declining, and you are a big enough memory buyer to negotiate a good price.
3. LTE support
Unfortunately, Chinese users probably won't enjoy the use of the new upgrade of LTE (long-term evolution) network support on iPad, even if they buy it from overseas. Usually, Apple sells Wi-Fi-only iPad in the mainland market due to regulatory issues over the 3G version. With next-generation technology, better known as 4G, users can access the Internet through mobile networks 20 to 30 times faster than with 3G networks. China, however, won't grant 4G licenses for another one or two years, a top industry regulator said recently. So Chinese consumers will be paying for the telecommunications chipset in the new iPad that they can't use.
4. No China debut timetable
Apple will start selling the new iPad on March 16 and March 23 in the first two batches in several dozen countries and regions in what the company is calling "Apple's biggest ever rollout." That includes Hong Kong but not the Chinese mainland. I wonder whether China's omission is somehow related to the iPad trademark lawsuit between Apple and Proview, a Chinese company claiming ownership of the trademark in China?
5. No Steve Jobs
Tim Cook, Apple's new chief executive, is a good business executive with a low-key style. But the absence of company founder Jobs, who died last year, from the big iPad unveiling was keenly felt. It just didn't seem like the same Apple presentation without him.
Despite these negatives, there is still a lot to admire in the new iPad:
1. Retina Display
The new iPad Retina Display will feature a 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution display, with 3.1 million pixels total spread across the screen. Jargon aside, it means the highest tech figures in a mobile device and 40 percent better color saturation than in the previous model. No one will doubt the spotlight of the iPad is the display and screen. I can't wait to try it with new photos and HD movies. That's an upgrade feature you will use every time.
2. Software upgrades: voice dictation and iPhoto
Now iPad features a new key on the bottom of keyboard: a microphone. It supports voice dictation in US English, British, Australian, French, German and Japanese. No Mandarin support yet. Finally, Apple has moved iPhoto, a successful photo album management and picture editing software, onto mobile devices. With enough capacity, it makes the new iPad a mobile photo storage device, which allows you to share pictures everywhere with your friends. I can clearly remember asking the question several times during previous interviews with Apple executives: "When will you move iPhoto to mobile devices?"
3. iSight camera
The camera of the new iPad has been upgraded to 5-mega-pixel, with 1080-pixel video recording, a useful upgrade for iPad 2's shabby camera. I still think it's wired to take a 10-inch iPad as camera, but it will be interesting to see the scenes on the super-large HD screen.
The iPad, poster child of the post-PC world, tallied up sales of 15.4 million units in the last quarter, surpassing the personal computer sales of Hewlett-Packard, the world's No. 1 PC maker, in the same period. Apple will continue to dominate the tablet PC market for at least one or two years, thanks to its ecosystem and integration of hardware and online stores, analysts said. "Only Apple could deliver this kind of integration in such a beautiful, integrated and easy-to-use way," said Cook in the webcast event.
I had the feeling during the presentation that Apple is paying more attention to business operations rather than product innovation. The new iPad rollout shows improvements in Apple's supply chain. At the same time, the lowered price of the old iPad, with its fast speed and impressive range, is also an effective way to fight against rivals like Samsung and Amazon in the tablet market.
To be frank, the new iPad has fewer innovations than previous products, such as the iPhone 4. It just provides users some long-awaited features, like screen and camera improvements. I'm not sure if it's enough to match the Jobs vision of "creating demand for users," such as the touch screen on iPads and iPhones.
Cook used to be in charge of Apple's supply chain and business operations rather than any involvement in product design. But with the Jobs legacy and his Apple ecosystem likely to endure for some time to come, the company's halo in the market is certain to continue shining with increased sales.